© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.
© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.
The practice of placing lighted candles in the windows at Christmas was brought to America by the Irish. The historical background of this custom is quite interesting.
When religion was suppressed throughout Ireland during the English persecution, the people had no churches. Priests hid in forests and caves and secretly visited the farms and homes to say Mass there during the night.
Every Irish family longed for at least one chance during their lifetime to be visited by a priest at Christmas to celebrate the Divine sacrifice during Holy Night. Many hope and prayed for this all through the year.
When Christmas came, they left their doors unlocked and placed burning candles in the windows so that any priest who happened to be in the vicinity would know they were welcome and were guided to their home through the dark night. Silently he entered through the unlatched door and was received by the faithful who were grateful that their home was used to worship the birth of Christ Jesus.
To justify this practice in the eyes of the English soldiers, the Irish people used to explain: “We burn the candles and keep the doors unlocked, that Mary and Joseph, looking for a place to stay, will find their way to our home and be welcomed with open doors and open hearts.” The English authorities, finding this Irish “superstition” harmless, did not bother to suppress it.
Candles or not the choice is ours. God’s Spirit resides in us and pausing to be aware of that makes any moment or any location sacred.
In the midst of another busy holiday season are we making room for Jesus to enter more deeply into our hearts?
© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.
Don’t put Jesus first this year!
No – that’s not a typo and yes – I’m serious. But before you write me off as having lost my mind please hear me out.
It’s fairly common, at the start of a new year, to pause and evaluate the past year. This usually leads us to a renewed commitment to follow after Jesus and it tends to look like this:
The problem is that a list like this tends to compartmentalize life in a way that doesn’t fit neatly into a real, ordinary day.
I take calls from my family when I’m at the office and I occasionally do office stuff when I’m home with the family. And separate time alone with God doesn’t always work first thing in the morning when an urgent phone call wakes me up and I have to attend to something related to work or a family member.
The neat and tidy list of 1, 2, 3 seldom fits into an ordinary day and tends to take Jesus out of those places that we most need Him!
As Steven Furtick puts it: “You end up removing Jesus from where you spend the majority of your time and putting Him on an island by Himself. The biggest island maybe, but an island nonetheless.”
Colossians 1:15-20 describes how Christ Jesus is supreme. It spells out how everything - both visible and invisible - was created through Him and for Him. How everything was reconciled through Him and how all of creation is held together by Him and in Him.
Jesus is supreme because He is at the center of everything!
So instead of putting Jesus first, let’s make Him the center of everything in our lives.
Not Jesus first and then my marriage but Jesus in the center of my marriage! Not Jesus first and then my kids but Jesus in the center of my kids! Not Jesus first and then my vocation but Jesus in the center of my work!
* The seed idea for this blog came from Steven Furtick
“You can’t be grateful for something you feel entitled to.” ~ Steven Furtick
“Would you know who is the greatest saint in the world: It is not he who prays most or fasts most, it is not he who gives most alms or is most eminent for temperance, chastity, or justice; but it is he who is always thankful to God, who wills everything that God wills, who receives everything as an instance of God’s goodness and has a heart always ready to praise God for it.” ~ William Law
“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” ~ Meister Eckhart
“We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things?” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.” ~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ~ The Apostle Paul – I Thessalonians 5:16-18
“If God grades on the curve, I’m probably between a C+ and a B-.”
Here’s the truth. God doesn’t grade on a curve. He sees you as you really are. He knows your words and actions, your true motives, and the intentions behind everything you do and think. Even more, He measures your actions, words, and motives against His standards, which reflect His perfect righteousness. Jesus gave us a glimpse of God’s perfect standards when He said if you have been angry with someone, you are just as guilty as one who committed murder (see Matthew 5:21–22). If you have failed to love your neighbor in the same manner and degree that you love yourself, then by the standard of God’s love, you have not loved your neighbor.
… But the great news is that He loves you and me anyway! He loves us so much that He has made the ultimate sacrifice (the death of His Son) to bring you and me into a miraculous, love-drenched, eternal relationship with Him.
~ Excerpted from The Jesus Mission by Steven K. Scott
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” ~ Romans 8:1-2
We preach and teach about His will and His ways; tell His stories by heart; celebrate Him in worship; and serve Him with enthusiasm. Yet underneath it all (if we are truly candid), there is a gnawing sense that there should be something…well, more to this relationship.
Why is it that He often feels so far away? The distance between knowing Him and knowing about Him is vast. And the space between these two experiences separates the spectators from intimate participants.
Jesus intends for you to experience the pleasure and reassuring peace of His presence at the core of your life. He wants to be more than just another volume in your encyclopedia of biblical facts. He didn’t die for you to simply strike a deal guaranteeing heaven. He died for you to make you His own and to grant you the unspeakable privilege of experiencing Him personally.
~ Excerpted from Simply Jesus and You by Joseph M. Stowell
We often think, at least I do, that if we were different people in different circumstances with different resources… THEN God could use us to accomplish something special for His kingdom. But that is a lie!
To participate in something supernatural requires resources that are supernatural. And the only way that God’s Spirit can do something in and through us that is bigger than us requires that we surrender.
“Surrender is not the surrender of the external life, but of the will; when that is done, all is done. There are very few crises in life; the great crisis is the surrender of the will.” ~ Oswald Chambers
“Full consecration may be in one sense the act of a moment and in another the work of a lifetime. It must be complete to be real, and yet – if real – it is always incomplete. Consecration is a point of rest and yet a perpetual progression.” ~ Frances R. Havergal
“Dear Lord, You be the needle and I be the thread. You go first, and I will follow wherever You may lead.” ~ Congolese believer
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a slave…” ~ Philippians 2:5-7
It’s been a long and busy and tiring and productive week! We are working on some long overdue projects at the house and hired my nephew Joel from Michigan to come help for the week. Among the things we got done were:
Whew! We worked several evenings and pushed our bodies well beyond the comfort zone. Susan and I are delighted at all that has gotten done this week – thanks in large part to Joel; but there is still more to do.
The same is true in God’s kingdom work here on earth. What we did last year or last month or last week to further God’s agenda of loving Him and loving others is great! But there is still more to do! After offering an impressive list of what he had already done, Paul says this:
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 3:12-14
I press on! I keep going! I persist in what God has for me to do! I give myself to something bigger than myself. I empty myself giving every last ounce of energy and effort. I continue to envision what else might be possible.f
Our oldest, Eli, is working this summer at Anderson University where he’ll be a junior next year. We are very grateful for the job but don’t get to see him as often as we’d like. But he got to come home for five whole days over the 4th of July weekend!
One of my favorite things about Eli coming home is that we share a love of movies and catch each other up on what we’ve seen or want to see. This time home we watched Unknown. If you haven’t watched it but plan to you might want to skip the remainder of this blog.
In short, a doctor just arriving in Germany is in a freak accident and hits his head. When we wakes up 4 days later he has no identification and his wife does not know him. What ensues is a difficult quest to find himself and the truth.
In the end we learn that he is a master spy on a very covert mission. But when he finally discovers, or remembers, all of this he is riddled with guilt and shame. The same thing happens in the Bourne Identity trilogy – also good flicks!
It’s a very engaging story with lots of action and suspense. I enjoyed it very much but something troubles me. Why is it that a simple bump on the head seems to reset a default button and a trained assassin becomes a selfless individual concerned with making everything right?
If that is all it takes then perhaps our penal system should take note and start thumping prisoners on the head. To be clear, that was sarcasm. I do not believe such a premise nor do I advocate abuse of prisoners.
This sort of storyline makes for engaging entertainment but it is based on the flawed premise that we are all basically good at heart. That’s popular humanistic thinking, but God’s word paints a different picture.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. ~ Romans 3:23
We are not all basically good in nature but rather sinful and rebellious towards our Creator. We are not naturally inclined towards God’s will but our own. Our default is selfish, not selfless.
I’m not trying to browbeat or demean mankind. We are all made in the image of God which gives every human being immense value. But until we recognize our own propensity towards sin we will never come to the real solution which is new life in Christ Jesus.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17
Am I making mountains out of mole hills? I don’t think so. The basic premise of Unknown is everywhere today. It’s so subtle that we don’t even recognize it. Such thinking only makes it more difficult for us to come to God in humility and repentance.
Ahhhhh! What a great Father’s Day! After church we headed out to the Wayne County Fair for some fair food followed by some Ullery’s ice cream – red raspberry and cookies n’ cream. Got a call from Eli who’s working at Anderson University for the summer; then spent the remainder of the day relaxing at home.
Father’s Day is typically that day when we dad’s get treated like lords and given what we most desire. But…
…what does God our Father most desire?
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus… ~ 1 Timothy 2:3-5
More than anything in the world God wants every person to be saved and in a right relationship with Him. But there are many who deny, reject or just plain ignore God.
Every once in a while my kids will help each other with a gift for me. That is especially gratifying as a dad. And I think God feels the same way. He delights in using those of us who know Him to reach out with grace and mercy to those who don’t.